Preparatory effects of problem-solving prior to instruction: Learning by doing versus observing

Duration   since 10/2015
Researchers   Christian Hartmann, Prof. Dr. Nikol Rummel, Prof. Dr. Tamara van Gog, Jun.-Prof. Dr. Katharina Loibl

Project description

Research on the effectiveness of Productive Failure (PF) has demonstrated that prompting students to solve a problem before they receive instruction about the canonical solution, aids their learning compared to receiving instruction first, as evidenced by higher conceptual understanding. In contrast to the direct instruction (DI) approach, where students first receive the canonical solution and solve problems afterwards, in PF students first are actively involved in error-driven problem solving. Research comparing PF to DI has found strong support for the beneficial preparatory effects of problem solving prior to instruction, especially for learning in STEM education. Even when students generate incomplete or erroneous solutions in the initial problem-solving phase, failing in problem solving prior to instruction seems to make students more receptive for the subsequent instruction. Despite the fact that there is evidence for the beneficial effects of the PF approach, it is unclear what mechanisms are crucial for the preparatory effects of problem solving prior to instruction. Furthermore, the constructivist assumption, that generating own solutions during problem solving would be the only way to trigger the mentioned cognitive mechanisms is also not clearly supported by research on PF. Observational and example-based learning approaches, provide much evidence that observing someone else’s problem solving process helps students to effectively explore underlying rules of a concept. Hence, observing someone else ‘productively fail’ could also effectively prepare students for the subsequent instruction within the PF approach. To investigate what makes the PF approach ‘productive’, we experimentally compare learning outcomes of students who were actively involved in problem solving prior to instruction and students who observed another student’s problem solving, without generating own solutions. The purpose of the dissertation project is to investigate within a PF setting, if students need to generate their own solutions prior to instruction or whether observing other students’ ‘failing’ examples might lead to similar preparatory effects.

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Ansprechpartner / Sekretariat

Nesrin Denizer

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